Between lashes and lipsticks, I found a routine that depression had no hold on. And it made me feel on top of the world.
Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.
Makeup and depression. They don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, do they?
One implies glamour, beauty, and being “put together,” whereas the other implies sadness, loneliness, self-loathing, and lack of care.
I’ve worn makeup for years now, and I’ve also been depressed for years — little did I know how one would actually impact the other.
I first developed depressive tendencies when I was 14 years old. I was completely unaware of what was happening to me, and unsure of how I was going to get through it. But I did. Years passed and I was finally diagnosed at 18 with bipolar disorder, which is characterized by severe low moods and manic highs. Throughout my schooling years, I fluctuated between severe depression and hypomania, using dangerous methods to help cope with my illness.
It wasn’t till my early 20s that I discovered self-care. The idea baffled me. I had spent years of my life battling this illness, using alcohol, self-harm, and other awful methods to help deal with it. I never thought self-care could help.
Self-care simply implies a way of helping yourself through a difficult time, and looking after yourself, be it a bath bomb, a walk, a conversation with an old friend — or in my case, makeup.
I’d worn makeup since I was young, and as I grew older, it became more of a helper… and after that, a mask. But then I discovered something within the lashes, the eyeshadows, the lipsticks. I realized it was so much more than what it seemed on the surface. And it became a huge step in my recovery.
I sat at my desk and spent a whole hour on my face. I contoured, I baked, I tweezed, I shaded, I pouted. A whole hour had gone by, and suddenly I realized that I had managed to not feel sad. I had managed to last an hour, and didn’t feel anything other than concentration. My face felt heavy and my eyes felt itchy, but I felt something other than that horrific mind-crushing sadness.
Suddenly, I wasn’t putting on a mask to the world. I was still able to express my feelings, but I felt that a small part of me had it “in control” with every sweep of my eyeshadow brush.
Depression had stripped me of every passion and interest I’d ever had, and I was not going to let it get this one, too. Every time the voice in my head told me I wasn’t good enough, or I was a failure, or that there was nothing I was good at, I felt a need to get back some control. So sitting at my desk and ignoring the voices, ignoring the negativity in my head, and just simply putting on makeup, was a huge moment for me.
Sure, there were still days when getting out of bed was impossible, and as I stared at my makeup bag I would roll over and vow to try again tomorrow. But as tomorrow rose, I would test myself to see how far I could go — to get that control back. Some days would be a simple eye look and a bare lip. Other days, I’d come out looking like a fabulous, glamorous drag queen. There was no in-between. It was all or nothing.
Sitting at my desk and painting my face with art felt so therapeutic, I’d often forget how ill I was. Makeup is a huge passion of mine, and the fact that I was still — even during my lowest moments — able to sit there and do up my face felt so good. I felt on top of the world.
It was a hobby, it was a passion, it was an interest depression hadn’t robbed me of. And I was so lucky to have that goal to start my day.
If you have a passion, an interest, or a hobby that helps you deal with your depression, hold onto it. Don’t let the black dog take it from you. Don’t let it rob you from your self-care activity.
Makeup won’t cure my depression. It won’t turn my mood around. But it helps. In a small way, it helps.
Now, where’s my mascara?
Olivia — or Liv for short — is 24, from the United Kingdom, and a mental health blogger. She loves all things gothic, especially Halloween. She’s also a massive tattoo enthusiast, with over 40 so far. Her Instagram account, which may disappear from time to time, can be found here.